Connecting CT Students with CT Startups
Founded in 2019, Startups & Scholars (S&S) provides personalized matchmaking, connecting local student freelancers with local startups and entrepreneurs. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Co-Founders Jules Kelly and Michael Heiser to learn more about how the company came to be and how it’s helping impact Connecticut’s workforce pipeline.
NAN PRICE: How did you both become involved with Startups & Scholars?
MIKE HEISER: While I was still in school, I responded to a job posting about some freelance remote marketing research jobs. That’s how I initially met Rob Zielonka, Founder and Chairman of Startups & Scholars.
At the time, this business had no title and no real direction. Rob needed help with some market research for his startup called Growler Power and he had some clients that needed help with market research. That was the initial project of Startups & Scholars. Jules and I came in before it was even called S&S as scholars who were helping out these startups and small businesses.
JULES KELLY: Similar to Mike, I received an email from Rob asking if I was interested in doing some remote work. I started by helping a nonprofit build a website and a couple other smaller assignments.
Rob had been working with a handful of other students, but he liked the work Mike and I were doing and approached us with an idea.
MIKE: Jules and I got in at the ground floor on the student side and then we were able to develop our own systems and functionalities and turn S&S into what it is today.
That’s one of the prime benefits of working in a startup, you can come in when it’s just an idea, before it’s really a business, before it has any sort of direction. And then you can have some real power in building it into something that feels meaningful to you.
NAN: How are you making connections with the startups and the scholars?
MIKE: Early on we connected with INROADS, a nonprofit that creates career pathways for diverse high school and college students.
Rob Zielonka, Founder and Chairman of Startups & Scholars, is a Hartford native. Because of his involvement with the local startup community we’ve made connections with reSET, Launch Hartford, and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC), which has been an invaluable resource to connecting us with some of our best clients.
We’ve also become members of the Hartford Chamber of Commerce because making connections in the Hartford area has been critical to our success. We see the value of expanding our network and being a part of something that seems to be growing in the Hartford area.
On the student side, we’ve been working with a bunch of different students with a majority of them coming out of the University of Connecticut.
JULES: We give students internships and the opportunity to work with startups. But the other side of it is the startups, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, many simply don’t have a huge budget, so we’re creating a growth opportunity for them, too.